THIS should be called 'In Couch With Ira Siff' because I don't actually have a bed any more. Hundreds of dresses, wigs and feather boas now inhabit what was once my bedroom and when I'm at home I simply have to throw myself down on the living-room couch at night and drag a duvet over me.
My piano is within arm's reach of the couch and often, when I'm trying to go to sleep, I will suddenly be tortured by the idea that I can't reach a certain high note any more . . . maybe one I didn't do so well that evening if there's been a performance. I plonk the note with a finger and test my voice.
If I go out at night, it's usually to the opera. I used to go to clubs - I was once a bartender at a cabaret - but I really burnt out on the smoke, the noise and the way people act when they're drunk. I kind of feel too old for that now and it's all so bad for the voice.
Of course it's a strain on a male voice to sing soprano for two and half hours. I try not to use it too much when I'm not working, but I have this New York habit of talking on the telephone late into the night. I lie in couch, call someone up and chat for hours. I have sometimes dozed off and woken up to find my friend still talking on the other end.
Sleep is the best healer if your voice is in tatters and I always try to get a lot of it. Unfortunately, I live in East Village, which has been totally taken over by rich student brats and I am constantly subjected to rap music from their car speakers. They think it's really hip to act like that because they come from the suburbs where they'd never dare.
I like being alone at night to wind down and think - I get all my greatest ideas then, like staging Der Rosenkavalier in a shopping mall. But I also have to see my lover, Christopher, so at least three times a week I stay over at his apartment. We've been together for 18 years and have a typically New York situation in that both of us have rent-controlled homes that are too precious to give up.
We have a dog called Sidney who's a bit like the child in our relationship. He was Christopher's idea and lives with him. Christopher has a fantastic bed in a proper bedroom, but the irony is that I often end up on his couch nowadays. Christopher lets Sidney sleep in the bed and he slowly edges me out. It's the final humiliation. I do complain, but I think Christopher is partial to the dog.
I love being Vera Galupe-Borszkh, though it's a great burden, of course, being an international opera diva. I do not wear dresses habitually and actually found it quite traumatic the first time - panty-hose are a form of torture. The dresses heighten the comedy and drama but we're not trying to act like women - I think that's really misogynistic.
Though I need to take a blowtorch to my face to get the make-up off after a performance, I have no trouble leaving Vera behind me as soon as I walk off stage. I never confuse my identity and in my dreams I am always Ira Siff.
I get a lot of anxiety dreams which I find hilarious. I'm always going on stage and realising I haven't learnt my part. I see my notes highlighted in yellow on the score - which is absolutely no use to me because I can't sight-read - and wake myself up laughing. Unfortunately, not all my dreams are that funny. I've lost a lot of friends to Aids and often meet them in dreams. I find that deeply upsetting.
La Gran Scena Opera Company is at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London, until Saturday, 071-388 8822.
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